When Erik Confesses, Can Jan be Far Behind? (Satis Shroff, Freiburg)
It was a pathetic, unprecedented scenario in Germany’s TV channel when Erik Zabel, the cyclist, with tears in his eyes, and an emotionally distorted face, confessed in front of 5,5 million viewers that he had doped with Epo during the Tour de France in 1996. Tour de France, Giro di Italia, Tour de Ländle, he was a constant participant for T-Mobile. It was a sensation in Germany because bike-riding has become a sort of Volkssport. And the city of Freiburg, in its perpetual search for attractive titles calls itself the Capital of Cyclists.
Now the entire German nation’s attention is turned upon Jan Ulrich, the cyclist from Merdingen near Freiburg, for he’d done an offensive media campaign to save his skin earlier at B. Kerner’s TV show by repeating: “I repeat, I have never injected epo and have never taken drugs in my life.” A clean German hero? An entire packet with his blood samples were revealed in Spain. Somehow, to viewers in Germany, Jan’s assurances sounded like the last words of the politician Rainer Barschel just before his exit. The hollow litany, “Ich versichere Ihnen” echoes still in our ears. Jan’s tour helper Christian Henn who was tested during a doping-control with an overdose of testosterone values.
Eric Zabel wasn’t alone in his candid confession. Rolf Aldag, the Sport director of T-Mobile also admitted having encouraged the use of Epo as far back as 1995. According to Der Spiegel in the Telekom-team there has been systematic and thoroughly doping as in the cases of the entire concurring teams. The Dane Brian Holm also belongs to the list of sportsmen who admitted to doping: Bert Dietz, Christian Henn, Udo Bölts, Rolf Aldag and Erik Zabel. During an ARD-interview Zabel said: “The generation before us rode their cycles with amphetamines. My generation goes in the history of cycling as the Epo-generation. After the Fuentes-scandal we came to know about the blood-change doping.” The future generation of cyclists will be the gene-doping generation. The irony of Udo Bölts is that he even wrote a book last year with the title “Quäl dich, du Sau” (Torture Yourself, You Swine) and posed as a fighter against doping.
Ethics, morale and fairness seem to be conspicuous through their absence. The basic behaviour seems to be to make money through sport, despite the critic in the media against doping in sport. Doping was tolerated and even supported by the people involved in sporting events in different parts of Europe. The collective conscience seems to question Erik Zabel’s wet eyes as crocodile tears, and the confession as partial truths, perfectly staged pseudo-transparency. Was it a well-organised show run by ARD, ZDF and N24? Your guess is as good as mine.
The worst part of this unfurling scenario is the fact that the University of Freiburg and its Department of Sport Medicine have a reputation to lose, since the media have started calling Freiburg a doping university. “ We’re very worried about the ethical problem,” says the University rector Wolfgang Jäger, and he sees the danger of his elite university being dragged in the swamp of doping. Two medic doctors Lothar Heinrich and Andreas Schmid have been fired and therapies for sport medicine have been stopped, and an evaluations committee is to look into the matter, which dates back to at least twenty years. The files are all there at the university archive, kept with German thoroughness, perseverance and sense of order. As a German saying goes: lies have short legs, which means you can’t lie to all the people all the time. And Freiburg’s Sport Medicine physicians have been supplying T-Mobile based in Bonn with doping substances since many years, including epo even though it’s against the drug law of the country, sportsmanship and the Code of Hippocrates.
The doctors Heinrich and Schmid have regretted their mistakes through their respective lawyers, and Heinrich went even further to say that he’d engage in the fight against doping.
The state attorney of Freiburg has taken over the matter in the case of Heinrich and Schmid and mentioned that the matter regarding doping would not be followed up when it is over five years old. Nevertheless, the state attorney wants to find out whether the Telekom and T-Mobile teams used doping between 2002 and 2007. The university rector has no idea where the doping substances came from and how their were billed by the accounts section.
A lot of questions have to be answered and the doping affair timing is wrong, because the university of Freiburg is celebrating its 550 anniversary and Freiburg wants to be recognised as an elite university this autumn. It’s like getting an academic oscar for excellence. The nomination of Freiburg as an elite university will go on, despite the doping scandal. After all, Freiburg is also my Alma mater, and I can only cross my fingers and whisper as we do in Germany: “Toi! Toi! Toi!”
Satis Shroff is a writer and poet based in Freiburg who writes on WordPress.com and regularly for The American Chronicle and its twenty-one affiliated newspapers (poems, fiction, non-fiction and on ethno-medical, culture-ethnological themes). He has studied Zoology and Botany in Nepal, Medicine and Social Science in Germany, and Creative Writing in Freiburg & Manchester. He describes himself as a mediator between western and eastern cultures and sees his future as a writer and poet. Satis Shroff was awarded the German Academic Exchange Prize. Please read his poems, articles and essays at google & yahoo search under: satis shroff.